Ask The Ombudsman
Q: Why are the small orange beetles with the black spots swarming onto the side of my house?
A: Asian lady bugs, or lady beetles, were both accidentally and intentionally brought to the U.S. several times, beginning in 1916. They serve a useful purpose in controlling insect pests of crops and other plants but they may be responsible for declines in numbers of native lady bugs. In recent decades they have become a pest of many homeowners, although they will not harm houses, people or pets, other than some minor staining on walls or carpets. Each fall, during a warm-up following the first cold weather, the insects gather on the sunny sides of houses and other structures as they look for cracks and crevices where they can find shelter for the coming winter. They will get into houses where unsealed cracks allow access to crawl spaces, attics and walls. Many will survive the winter and appear again in the spring as temperatures warm and they try to exit the house. A thorough Internet reference that includes control recommendations is: ohioline.osu.edu/hsefact/1030.
Q: Can you explain why the blue jays are making repeated trips along the same route over my forest this fall?
A: It is a common sight to see those industrious birds getting ready for winter by storing food in the fall. Blue jays are known to carry away and bury nuts as far as a mile or more from the source tree, a practice known as nut caching. They will make trips with one to several of the smaller acorns. Studies indicate that a single bird may cache up to several thousand nuts in a season. They bury and cover them in shallow soil, and the nuts that are not relocated are usually able to germinate and grow, making the blue jay an important factor in the spread of oaks.
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Department of Conservation programs. Write him at PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at 573-522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.
Fall Mushroom Hunting in Missouri
Fall is a great time to enjoy the outdoors in Missouri. Mushroom hunting in the fall is a popular hobby, providing quality family outings and cherished memories for old and young alike. Success comes easier with preparation, forethought and a bit of experience. A few simple tools and supplies, along with basic knowledge of mushroom ecology and habitats, are all that is needed to get started. Fall mushroom species are as varied as the many shades of fall colors, and include such edibles as shaggy manes, puffballs, sulfur shelfs, hen-of-the-woods and chanterelles.
Keep in mind a few tips when hunting for fall mushrooms. First of all, you’ll need to know if they are edible or poisonous. Many mushrooms are perfectly harmless and can be a surprising treat from your normal table fare. Most edible mushrooms are easily recognizable with some practice, and most identification books will also give you tips on how to prepare them. It’s very important to know the visual cues to look for, but knowing when and where a mushroom grows is very important in proper identification. However, the safest way to get acquainted with edible mushrooms is to take one species at a time to learn, hunt and eat.
Mushroom hunting is an enjoyable and exciting experience for all but it does not authorize trespass. Be respectful of private property boundaries and always ask permission before mushroom hunting on private property. Most areas managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation allow mushroom collecting for personal consumption, but others don’t. Don’t be in violation of the Wildlife Code; know the area regulations before collecting.
For more information on mushroom identification visit your local MDC office or go online at MissouriConservation.org and search “mushrooms”. Remember to enjoy the delicious-tasting treats you find, but more importantly enjoy the time spent with family and friends.